Dish 1: Pan-Seared Cod & Greens with Garlicky Potato Puree
Tuesday, March 14, 2017 – My second box from Martha and Marley Spoon arrived, and I made Pan-Seared Cod & Greens with Garlicky Potato Puree today. After the issues with the fish last week, I checked the website and they advised to make the fish dishes first even though it says that it should be cooked within 5 days on the package. I guess they don’t expect people to actually make a dish the day the box arrives because the fish was still pretty icy. The flavor of the fish was better this week, but I couldn’t get a good sear, and the texture was a bit mealy.
The collard greens were delicious, and I loved the addition of dill sprinkled on everything. On the negative side, the garlicky mashed potatoes were just a touch too vinegary. The recipe recommend getting a bit of everything on the fork to ensure the perfect bite, but the vinegar totally obliterated the taste of the fish. I also take issue with calling the potatoes a puree. I followed the directions, and they were not pureed. They were mashed. It isn’t a big deal, but I hate when people are imprecise with their terminology just to make something sound fancier.
In all, the dish was pretty good. If I were to make it again, I would use better quality fish and cut the amount of vinegar. I’m looking forward to my next meal.
Dish 2: Warm Vegetable Pan Roast with Feta & Arugula-Pepita Salad
- Holy jumping Batman on a pogo stick, this was not a low calorie dish at 810 calories per serving. As my old art teacher used to say, trust Americans to make something as healthy as a salad full of fat and calories. I’ve had chocolate cake with fewer calories.
- I wasn’t planning to make this dish tonight. You see, I was planning to make these beautiful black bean veggie burgers that were crusted with sesame seeds, but as I looked over the recipe card, I noticed that the recipe calls for an egg, but egg was not listed in the contents of the bag. I looked down a little farther on the card, and the egg was listed in the “What You Need” section. I didn’t have any eggs. I ate the last one on Saturday and neglected to pick up more when I went shopping for the week on Sunday. Martha and Marley did send me a message on Monday (a day late) saying what ingredients I would need to supply, but for all of the other boxes I needed nothing more than oil, salt, and pepper, so I didn’t take the time to read it. Stupid me. Stupid Martha and Marley for not supplying all of the major ingredients. Stupid veggie burgers for tempting me with your deliciousness. I am irrationally angry and tired from writing all day.
March 17, 2017 – My final meal from Martha and Marley Spoon: Black Bean Burgers with Sriracha Mayonnaise and a side of radishes and lightly marinated cucumbers. Like the other meals from Martha, all of the ingredients came bundled in a paper bag, except for that thrice-blasted egg I mentioned above.
The radishes were very soft, so I sliced them and tossed them in the marinade with the cucumbers. The can of beans had two huge dents and a little surface rust. It was nothing dangerous (the dents were nowhere close to the seams and the rust was only on the surface), but I was a little annoyed that the can was in such poor condition.
Martha and Marley Spoon – Week 2 Summary
Ease/clarity of recipes: 8/10
How many recipes would I make again? 2.5/3
Positives: Everything tasted great, and all of the ingredients were bundled together in a bag which was wicked convenient. It was also easy to cancel my subscription and customize my box.
Negatives: The quality of the fish was better this week, but it was still a bit ice damaged. The quality of some of the other ingredients was also lacking. The can of beans was in pretty rough shape and the radishes were very soft. I would have liked to have used the radish tops, but about half of them had gone completely brown and the other half was limp and lifeless. I’m also a bit bitter about the missing egg. Part of the appeal of these boxes is that everything is supplied. I had to make a special trip to the grocery store in order to make one of the recipes and that’s just not cool. Aside from the fish, the recipes were also surprisingly high in calories with the salad coming in at 810 calories and the veggie burger 740 calories.
I was expecting very good things from Martha and Marley, but I was quite disappointed. The salad and black bean burger were tasty, but none of the recipes were particularly special.
At the end of this week, I was left wondering how much of the cost of the box went to branding.
Overall rating: C+
Thursday, March 9, 2017 – Sesame-Mustard Cod with Miso Cabbage Slaw. Ooof, this is probably the closest I’ve come to a failure since I started this experiment. First, I was missing an ingredient. I checked and rechecked the packaging, but the mint for the cabbage slaw was nowhere in sight. I contacted Martha and Marley Spoon; they apologized and offered me a $6 credit on my next box which was nice of them.
The panko crust toasted up nicely, but the fish did not cook very well. The piece of cod was really thick, so I went for the far end of recommended baking time (10 minutes). When I pulled the fish from the oven, it was still largely raw. I put it back in the oven for another 8 minutes, and it still tasted undercooked and rubbery. There also wasn’t a lot of flavor to the fish. I hate to say it, but I’ve had better cod from Long John Silver’s*.
There was one positive aspect to this meal: the miso cabbage slaw. It was absolutely delicious which is a good thing because there is a lot of it. It was made with nearly a full head of Napa cabbage. I filled my plate twice and there’s still 2/3 of it left. I’m looking forward to having it as a side with tomorrow night’s veggie burger. I’m going to remember that dressing for the future.
I’m getting another cod dish from Martha & Marley next week. I’m hoping that this was just a bad batch and next week is better.
*Update: I had the second piece of cod for lunch today, and the flavor of the sauce was much better after mellowing out over night. The quality of the fish was no better with the second piece. It still looked undercooked, even though I heated it on high in the microwave, and it was mostly flavorless. The microwave did the texture no favors, but honestly, I didn’t expect it to – fish and microwaves are generally not friends. I’m starting to think that 425 degrees Fahrenheit was just too hot to properly cook the fish. It should have been cooked at a lower temperature for longer. The Miso-Cabbage Slaw was still the star of the dish.
Martha and Marley Spoon – Week 1 Summary
Ease/clarity of recipes: 9/10
How many recipes would I make again? 2.4/3
Positives: The ingredients for each meal were packaged together in paper bags, and the recipes were easy to follow. I also liked that the list of ingredients was on the same side of the recipe card as the procedure for cooking, so I didn’t have to keep flipping back and forth. The other thing that I liked was that I could get the package delivered on Tuesday which works better for my schedule.
Negatives: I had to create a new grading category for this week: quality. Honestly, I thought about adding it before, but I didn’t think it would be necessary. I started with the grading system after I had received boxes from a few companies, and the ingredient quality was always so stellar that I didn’t think I would need a quality category. Martha and Marley Spoon proved me wrong. The ingredients were great for my first meal, but my second meal was missing the mint and the fish was quite sub-par. The mushrooms for the third meal were bruised and mushy, and one was even a bit moldy. The red pepper for that dish was also a bit soft and wrinkly. It was like I had left them in my fridge for ten days rather than five. I was not impressed. The other ingredients – green pepper, farro, broccoli, etc – were just fine.
When it comes to cost, at $62 the subscription is two dollars more per week than Home Chef and Blue Apron, but when it comes to quality, Martha and Marley is just not worth it.
Snicket’s review: My cat does not like the Martha and Marley box nearly as much as she liked the Blue Apron and Home Chef boxes. It’s slightly taller than the other boxes, so she has to use the scratcher to jump into the box, and it has two really long flaps that don’t fold down properly making it hard to jump into. She had been using a Home Chef box constantly until I had to replace it, but she’s only used the Martha box once since then. She just jumps into the box, scratches around a bit, and then jumps out again. She also preferred the salmon from Home Chef to the cod from Martha.
I’m getting one more week of Martha and Marley. Fingers crossed that it’s better than week 1.
Overall Rating: C-
Since it was comparable in price to Blue Apron, I ended up getting two weeks of Home Chef. If anything, the second week was even better than the first.
Thursday, March 3 – My second Home Chef box arrived on Wednesday, and I cooked this for lunch today. It’s Black Bean Tortilla Soup with avocado, lime, and homemade tortilla strips. The soup was delicious and easy to make. It took about 40 minutes, but a lot of that time was passive time as the soup simmered. The dish was vegan and extremely filling. I got three meals out of it. The tortilla strips softened almost instantly when they hit the soup, which was ok, because they were like noodles.
The only issue I had was with mashing the beans. The recipe asked for half of the beans to be mashed into a paste, but I somehow misplaced the business part of my masher a few years ago. I bought a replacement that works great for potatoes, but not so good for mashing anything else. I could have gotten out the immersion blender, but that would have required effort. Still, the soup was delicious, if a bit thinner than the recipe called for. It was nicely spicy. I could definitely see myself making this again.
Friday, March 3 – This is the second meal from this week’s Home Chef box: Teriyaki Ginger-Glazed Salmon with stir-fried bok choy and carrots, and holy crap was it good. The teriyaki sauce wasn’t too sweet, but it was flavorful. The fish was good quality and super flavorful. The only thing I thought it needed was a little bit of sesame seed.
I did run into some troubles making the dish. When I followed the timing for the recipe, the salmon was finished before the vegetables were. Since I was using my stove for cooking and countertop for cutting, I didn’t have anywhere to put the fish when the timer went off. I turned off and opened the oven, and just let the fish rest there for a little bit until the vegetables were done. I was worried that it would dry out, but luckily, it didn’t. The fish was tender and juicy.
My hands also started shaking a few minutes into cooking, so my spring onion ribbons aren’t as dainty as they were in the picture with the recipe. I kind of like my chunky ribbons though.
Thus far, Home Chef has not failed to impress. This was probably my favorite meal since I started this experiment a month ago. I also just noticed that this recipe is a customer favorite. I can see why.
Home Chef Week 2 Summary
Ease/clarity of recipes: 10/10
How many recipes would I make again? 2.5/3
Verdict: I loved the meals this week. I wish they had sent another salad, but the fish came with a ton of vegetables, and there were mushrooms, spinach, and tomatoes in the pasta, so I can’t complain too much. There’s not a dish from this week that I wouldn’t happily make again; although, I might not make the pasta again for a while since it was a little too carby for me. Home Chef gets a blue ribbon.
Overall Rating: A
This is the fourth post in my continuing series testing out home food delivery services. This week’s box came from Home Chef. The price is the same as Blue Apron, and most of the packaging is recyclable. Unfortunately, they don’t offer a service to return the packaging that I couldn’t recycle.
The first box came with a nifty little binder along with a pamphlet with pictures and descriptions of common kitchen tools and knife cuts. It also has sections with storage tips, preparation tips, and cooking temperatures. This was something that the other boxes didn’t include and would be helpful for people who don’t have a lot of experience cooking.
When setting up the subscription, I was able to choose my dietary preferences: meat, seafood, or vegetables. They also allowed me to choose which foods I avoid. The list included pork, soy, red meat, nuts, gluten, dairy, mushrooms, and shellfish. For additional preferences, I could choose low-calorie and low-carb.
I selected seafood and vegetables for my preferences, and my avoidances were pork, red meat, and shellfish. For my additional preferences, I selected low-calorie.
Thursday, February 23, 2017 – Today I made the first of my Home Chef meals: Bulgar, Sweet Potato, and Pomegranate Grain Bowl with blood orange and shallot vinaigrette. It was absolutely scrumptious. The pomegranate seeds provided a little pop, almonds added a touch of crunch, the arugula was crisp, the vinaigrette was tangy, the sweet potato added a bit of sweetness, and the bulgar wheat added a little body. It was really great. And look at how pretty it is! The only thing that I would have added was a little bit blood orange or pomegranate juice to the vinaigrette.
Friday, February 24, 2017 – Today was my second meal from Home Chef: Cremini Mushroom and Goat Cheese Tarts with red onion, dried cranberries, and balsamic vinaigrette. All of the ingredients came bundled together in a bag which was super convenient. It took about 20 minutes to prep and sauté the vegetables and about 5 minutes to assemble the tarts. The tarts then baked for 12 minutes, so the meal didn’t take very long to make.
When completed, the tart’s crust was nice and crispy and the veggies were delicious. The arugula added a bitterness that contrasted nicely with the creaminess of the cheese. I went light on the balsamic because I’m apparently the only person in the entire world who is not a fan of how balsamic tastes with sautéed mushrooms. The tiny amount I put on added just enough zing without being overwhelming. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if I’d used the whole dressing packet. The cranberries got a little lost, but I’m pretty sure I would have thought something was missing if they weren’t there.
The tart was a little tricky to eat. I tried to eat it like pizza, but the puff pastry crust kind of delaminated and fell apart when I picked it up. I admitted defeat and used a knife and fork, a move which would have significantly impacted my political career had I done it in public (see here: http://www.cnn.com/…/politics/kasich-eats-pizza-with-a-fork/).
The tart was super delicious, and the portion size was perfect at two big tarts per serving (~550 calories). I have some puff pastry in my freezer, so I could see myself making a similar dish in the future.
February 25, 2017 – The final meal in this Home Chef box was Lasagna Bianca with cremini mushrooms and spinach. While my lasagna recipe is much better*, this wasn’t too bad. It was made with heavy cream, ricotta, and mozzarella and flavored with basil pesto. I went very light on the heavy cream because of the whole lactose intolerance thing, but I don’t think the extra heavy cream would have made that much of a difference. Yeah, the pasta probably would have been a little more tender, but I like my pasta to have a bit of a bite. Plus, one cup of heavy cream is 820 calories, so reducing the amount of cream cut the calorie load for the dish considerably. The recipe, as written, was 880 calories per serving.
As much as I love mushrooms, I was a little disappointed that two of the vegetarian dishes for this week used mushrooms for their protein. It wouldn’t have been as big of a deal if someone else were eating with me, but after I eat the second serving of lasagna tomorrow, I will have eaten two pints of mushrooms in the span of three days.
On the plus side, the portion size was nice and big. The piece in the picture is a little bit more than half of a serving. For scale, that plate is a 9″ diameter salad plate, not a full-sized dinner plate.
When I reheated my second serving the next day, I dumped some marinara sauce on top of the lasagna before I heated it. This kept it from getting dry, but it also added a ton of flavor. I definitely preferred it with the marinara. I guess I’m just not a huge fan of white lasagna.
My next Home Chef box arrives on Wednesday! I think it has fish in it.
Home Chef Week 1 Summary
Ease/clarity of recipes: 10/10
How many recipes would I make again? 2.3/3
Verdict: The tarts and grain bowl were amazing. That grain bowl was probably my favorite dish yet. I loved the combination of ingredients. The lasagna was pretty good, but I still prefer my own. I generally don’t eat pasta every week because it is so heavy. I’ve probably eaten more pasta in the past month than I have in the three months prior. The directions for Home Chef were the best written of the three services I’ve used.
Overall Rating: A**
*When I make lasagna, I go all out. I make my own sauce, pasta, and ricotta, so it’s quite an undertaking. I usually only make lasagna when I’m throwing a dinner party.
** The score actually calculated out to be a B+, but I gave them bonus points for bundling all of the ingredients for each recipe together, the awesome binder to put the recipes in, and because they had my favorite dish so far.
This week, in my continuing series of home food delivery services, I decided to try out Green Chef. After the introductory week, the vegan meal plan would have cost over $80, so I only did it for one week. By contrast Blue Apron was only $60. Another issue that I had with Green Chef was that I couldn’t recycle any of the packaging, and there was no option to send it back to Green Chef for them to recycle.
Friday, February 17, 2017 – This week’s food subscription box is from Green Chef. When I signed up, I chose the vegan option. Each dish is about 600 calories, and they are very veggie driven (YAY!). My first meal was ok. It was Barbecue Tempeh with Maple-Roasted Squash and vegan broccoli gratin. There wasn’t quite enough barbecue sauce on the tempeh and too many bread crumbs on the gratin. The butternut squash was a bit uninspired. It was just the squash with a bit of maple syrup, salt, and pepper. It went well with everything else, but it could have been a bit more special. I like tempeh, but the pieces were a bit too big to actually absorb the barbecue sauce. I ended up cutting it more thinly in the hopes that it would absorb more sauce, but that only helped a little. Also, the instructions were a little difficult to read while actively cooking. I completely missed that I was supposed to finish the gratin in the oven until I had been cooking it on the stove for 10 minutes. The pictures on the instructions weren’t overly helpful. I know what it looks like to put cubes of butternut squash in the oven. What would have been helpful is a picture showing me how they wanted me to cut the tempeh.
Saturday, February 18, 2017 My second meal from Green Chef: Black Bean Gorditas with homemade masa cakes and sautéed potatoes & poblano. It was absolutely delicious and only a little scorched.
Still having trouble with the instructions. The steps aren’t very well divided, so it’s hard to follow the steps and get the timing right. I had to spend a good two minutes figuring out what to do with the second half of the onion while trying to keep my stuff from burning.
Monday, February 20, 2017 – My last meal with Green Chef was decidedly meh. It was Red Curry Tofu with Black-Rice Ramen, broccoli & cauliflower, peanuts. The curry was a little vinegary and didn’t have very robust flavor. The slaw didn’t really go with the curry. The black rice noodles were nice, but I think I would have preferred black rice. There was very little sauce, so my last few bites were unseasoned, gummy noodles. The instructions were much better organized than the first two meals, but the pictures still weren’t particularly helpful.
The other downside to Green Chef was the cancellation process. I had to cancel the subscription the Wednesday before the next delivery. Since my first delivery arrived on Wednesday, I pretty much had to cancel the next order before the first had even arrived. The cancellation was also a multi-step process. I had to e-mail the company through the website and then click a link in an email to complete the process. Blue Apron’s cancellation process was much easier.
Green Chef Summary
Ease and clarity of instructions: 6/10
How many recipes would I make again? 1.2/3
Verdict: Two of the dishes were mediocre. The only dish I would make again is the Gorditas. I would do the barbecue tempeh again, but I’d use a completely different recipe.
Overall Rating: C-
Later this week, I’m trying Home Chef! It comes with some great recommendations, so I’m very excited.
I can’t think of a better way of celebrating love than eating macaroni & cheese and drinking mimosas. Happy Valentine’s Day.
Recipe from here: Episode 5: Baked Macaroni and Cheese
This is a continuation of my reviews of home delivery meal services. I tried Blue Apron for two weeks.
Wednesday, February 8, 2017 – Today’s meal is Crispy Barramundi with Melted Leek & Roasted Vegetables. The fish was good quality and nicely flavorful. It paired well with the horseradish sauce, which was so delicious I want to eat it on everything. The melted leeks were absolutely scrumptious. Stupidly, I flipped over my fish a second time, and it went from being crispy to being not crispy. I chalk that up to user error. I would definitely make this dish again.
Friday, February 10, 2017 – Today’s Blue Apron: Sicilian Cauliflower Pizza. Rather than having a sauce on the pizza, the cauliflower was coated with tomato paste, garlic, and capers. The pizza was sprinkled with golden raisins before being baked. The raisins weren’t obvious (they rehydrated a bit in the oven so they weren’t as raisiny). They just added little pops of sweetness, so each bite was a little different. I probably used a third less cheese than the recipe called for because they sent a lot of cheese. I cooked it until the cheese went dark because that’s the way I like my pizza. I’m generally not a huge fan of too much oregano, so I was a bit concerned about having it in the sauce and on top of the finished pizza, but the raw oregano added little notes of pepperiness. They sent enough supplies for three servings. Overall, this was scrumptious!
Sunday, February 10 – My final Blue Apron meal (at least for the time being): Fresh Basil Fettuccine with Datterini Tomatoes & Goat Cheese. It was a bit heavier than I usually eat, but absolutely scrumptious. The goat cheese added just a little creaminess to the sauce. I may steal this recipe in the future when I’m having a pasta craving. There’s an enormous bag of spinach in the recipe, so I felt like I was at least getting some green veggies.
Stay tuned: this Wednesday, I’m getting a box from Green Chef as I continue exploring home meal services.
Blue Apron Week 2 Summary
How many recipes would I make again? 3/3
Verdict: While the Fettuccini was a little heavy for my taste, the sauce lightened it up a bit. The cauliflower pizza was a revelation, and I will surely put cauliflower on future pizzas, and that horseradish sauce with the Barramundi was amazing.
Overall Rating: A